ORONO — The University of Maine football team opened its preseason training camp Thursday afternoon, with new faces vying for positions on both sides of the ball and a pair of new coordinators under second-year coach Jordan Stevens.

Jeff Comissiong, who played linebacker for the Black Bears in the mid-1990s, takes over as defensive coordinator, coming to Maine from Cornell. Steve Cooper is the new offensive coordinator, coming from Nebraska, where he served in a handful of positions on the offensive staff.

Stevens said a focus at this early point in camp is maintaining a sense of urgency, particularly on defense, where Maine surrendered 54 plays of 20 or more yards last season.

“We’ve got to be better in those base downs. First, second down, we’ve got to be more efficient there. We’re just trying to be simple on defense and get these guys playing with better fundamentals. Better tackling, and keeping things in front,” Stevens said. “You have to be driven every day. You can’t come out here like you’re just going through the motions.”

The Black Bears open the season Sept. 2 at Florida International, before playing at North Dakota State, winners of nine of the last 12 Football Championship Subdivision titles, on Sept. 9. Maine’s first home game is Sept. 16 against Coastal Athletic Association rival Rhode Island.

Maine went 2-9 last season, with five losses by four or fewer points. The Black Bears were picked 13th in the 15-team Coastal Athletic Association, which recently changed its name from the Colonial Athletic Association, in the preseason poll.


Players on both sides of the ball said they’ve connected with their new coordinators.

“Coach Comissiong came in, and he’s somebody I really tried to attach myself to, pick his brain and see who he is. The way he is and the way he talks and pushes us, he reminds me of my dad, and that’s somebody I want to keep around us as young men to keep pushing us to be better on and off the field,” said junior cornerback Kahzir “Buggs” Brown.

A preseason all-CAA selection, Brown is working back from a torn ACL suffered with 39 seconds left in the next-to-last game of the 2022 season against Albany. On Thursday, Brown practiced in a red non-contact jersey, but still lined up at corner and covered pass routes.

“I’ve been eating good, making sure I’m doing everything I can to heal faster and better and get back to helping my team,” Brown said. “First practice back, I was kind of a little too excited and messed up my technique a little bit. I’m going to get better.”

Stevens said there’s no timetable for Brown’s return to game action.

“He’s doing great. There’s no surprise he’s been diligent with his rehab. He’s on pace. He’s certainly ahead of schedule,” Stevens said.


With just 10 of the team’s top 20 tacklers back from last season, there’s opportunity for some players to see expanded roles. One of those players is junior linebacker Vince Thomas, who made 16 tackles last season.

“Coach (Stevens) asked me who I was as a player, I told him relentless. That’s what I want to show on the football field. I want to get to the ball and make plays,” Thomas said.

Offensively, the Black Bears lost a number of key players, including quarterback Joe Fagnano, who transferred to UConn for his graduate year, and tight end Shawn Bowman, who transferred to Rutgers.

Derek Robertson is the projected starter at quarterback. He played in eight games in 2021 when Fagnano missed time because of an injury, throwing for 1,505 yards with 12 touchdowns and four interceptions. Montigo Moss, the son of Pro Football Hall of Famer Randy Moss, is the top returning receiver after catching 35 passes for 398 yards and six touchdowns last season.

Robertson said he’s excited to work with new running backs and receivers as they compete for playing time in the preseason.

“Coach Coop’s been great, and we’re ready to go. We’ve still got a lot of work to do. That’s what these next 30-some odd days are for before the first game, but we’ll be ready,” Robertson said.  “We’ve got a really good group. We’re a lot deeper in that room than I think people know. I can’t wait for people to see that, come game days.”

The Black Bears will hold their first intrasquad scrimmage on Aug. 11 at 1 p.m. at Alfond Stadium.

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